Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lent Is Coming

Too early for a post about Lent? Probably, but it's starting to creep into my awareness. At church last weekend they were trying to get everyone to sign up for small groups; and they reminded that it would be a good activity for Lent. I got an email today that I have only two more days to take advantage of getting Lenten materials on sale. It's coming, and it's coming pretty soon. Less than a month!

In some ways, I kind of dread Lent. If you do it up right, it's not exactly fun. I wouldn't say that it's tremendously difficult or anything, but as a pansy, anything requiring any sort of self-sacrifice is kind of hard. On the other hand, I look forward to it. A lot of times I can get stuck in a rut, and Lent pushes me out of the rut and back on track. I'm starting to notice the rut. I'm starting to be ready (albeit grudgingly) for my push.

Lent is an interesting discussion these days. It's not just for Catholics anymore! Well, I guess it never was, but growing up, we were about the only denomination in my small town that celebrated it. No Anglicans or other more liturgical types that also celebrated it. Now there are a lot of other more evangelical type churches that are jumping in and getting involved as well. This annoys some. I've heard of people saying that they're not going to celebrate Lent because they don't want to follow the herd mentality. I guess I don't see it that way. I see it as unitive, a shared experience that can give us some common ground.

Others see it as too many rules. For one thing, they don't want anyone to tell them what to give up. If they do give something up, then what? Do you count Sundays? If you don't count Sundays, then do you gorge on that day? What if you're at someone else's house? I heard one person with a Greek Orthodox background that gave some great insight to some of those questions. They said that in their family, if someone gave something up, they did so quietly without announcing it to the rest of the world. If they gave up TV, and everyone was watching it as they were visiting friends, then they watched, too. They didn't want to make their sacrifice paramount. Charity towards friends came first. On the other hand, if someone gave up chocolate or alcohol, then they just quietly didn't have any while others did. I love the balance in that kind of a view! Also love how that view of Lent is not about bragging about what you gave up.

I know that Lent is still not something that's observed by everyone. I think that's fine, but it kind of makes me sad. It has meant so much to me each year as a preparation for Easter, and as a renewal of my commitment to Christ, that it always takes me by surprise when someone has never observed it or thought about it. Easter is so huge for me, that it's always a little shocking when some people only take that day to celebrate it. I'm Catholic! Liturgically, we spend the 40 days before solemnly preparing for and remembering Christ's sacrifice. Then we celebrate the Easter season; 40 days of rejoicing!

What's your experience? Do you "do" Lent? Do you like to give something up, or do you like to add something to your routine, like prayer or spiritual reading? Any tips for things that have made Lent especially meaningful for you?

I'll have plenty more to say about this, though I'll probably wait until much closer to when it actually starts (unless places keep throwing it in my face that it's coming).

8 comments:

  1. Oh, I don't have anything to add right now but great thoughts all around.

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  2. I completely agree with this post! I usually have to take a deep breath before Lent starts, because it takes a lot out of me. Kind of like the same way when it comes up that it's time to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries on the rosary. Sometimes I have a hard time taking the time to get myself in a non-Ordinary time frame of mind. Last year during Lent I was planning my wedding for the weekend after Easter... talk about suffering! :-) That being said, it is truly a wonderful time of preparation for an even more wonderful event- Easter!

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  3. great post! One year I gave up listening to the radio in the car- I know it seems kind of odd, but I felt that the silence would encourage me to be in prayer with God during that time. I struggled with it because the radio I listen to is Christian music, so I did feel that I was missing out on that connection as well. I have never given up a food or drink for lent... how have you gone about deciding what it is you SHOULD give up (or add?)

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  4. I like to both give something up, and add something along the lines of prayer with the hope that what I add will stay around longer than Lent. But I really haven't a clue what I will do this year.

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  5. I have felt a sense of *dread* as this Lent approaches. Mostly because last Lent was a doozy - I had my miscarriage smack in the middle of Lent - and I'm bracing myself for something equally as spiritually draining, yet hoping that will not happen.

    I also fasted from meat on Fridays as a child, and usually gave up something like soda or fries. I don't know what I'll do this year. I like the idea of keeping it quiet and not announcing it to the world, as the orthodox woman suggested.

    Great post!

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  6. Dawn- Thanks!

    Maggie- I hope to get married someday, but I am NOT looking forward to planning a wedding! :) Hopefully this Lent will be a little more relaxed for you.

    Andrea- Good question! I guess a lot of times it's easy to go with the "oldies but goodies", like desserts or chocolate. Sometimes it just depends on what I feel I'm getting too dependent on. If I *need* dessert after every meal, then I think it might be time to give it up for a while! :) I like to add something, too. I usually pray about what direction I need to go with that.

    Rae- You still have plenty of time!:)

    Sarah- Wow. I can't imagine. I will be praying for you as Lent approaches this year!

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  7. You know what, I have never truly observed Lent. You're right, it's sort of a cool thing in the American Protestant/Evangelical world now. While I appreciate that, I have stayed away because of the "bandwagon" feeling.

    However, I have been convicted about my need to practice submission even when it isn't easy or when no one or everyone else is "doing it". So... I think I will observe Lent this time!

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  8. I do observe Lent, though last year I truly did it in a quiet manner for the first time. And you know what, it was so much better because rather than having to explain my reasons to others, I took the time where I turned down a sweet to say a quiet prayer while others enjoyed. It wasn't anything earth-shattering, but by turning my eyes to God when I would have been making excuses and focusing my energy on resisting sin, I grew in my relationship with Him.

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